Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Women in Black

Recently I saw a group of silent women in a downtown area, standing in a long row as though in mourning. It was a scene that you couldn't ignore, as their solidarity and demeanor caught your attention. I asked the woman at the end of the row what they were doing. She responded that they were part of a network of women who call themselves "Women in Black". They are not an organization, but rather a part of many groups of women around the world who stand in silent vigil to protest war and human rights abuses everywhere. Their mission statement says that they are silent because mere words cannot express the tragedy that wars and hatred bring. These women could have been preaching to the crowds on each street corner in this busy downtown, and I probably would have walked right on by. But their silence, oh their silence. How effective it in eliciting an emotional response. It served as a poignant reminder to me that there are wars and rumors of wars going on all over the world and that people are suffering as a result. Peace, elusive peace does not sound too sweet during times like this. Although I am not standing on street corners in silent vigil, I can pray for peace and do my part in promoting a peaceful existence. And it is with a prayerful heart that I appeal to you to do the same.

"And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid. . ."

Leviticus 26:6

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Simply Delicious

This simply delicious breakfast might seem ordinary to most, but to a celiac who has been unable to eat oats since diagnosis ten years before, the discovery of certfied gluten-free oats is a real treat! The recipe is simple: 2 cups water brought to a boil, then the addition of 1 cups of raw oats. Simmer until tender and liquid is absorbed. Served with a sprinkle of cinnamon, a dab of sweet stevia, some sliced banana, and a dash of cold soymilk --- it's just about like eating dessert after living for so long without! Appreciating the simple things of life takes on new meaning. If you too are required to live gluten-free and would like a source of delicious gluten-free oats, a link is here.

Everyday Places

"God still draws near to us in the ordinary, commonplace, everyday experiences and places. . .He comes in surprising ways."

Henry Gariepy

The Golden Tamarack

Are you taking time to notice the subtle and not so subtle changes in nature around you? As seasons change, delight can be found in observing nature's changes. The color change of the deciduous trees is magnificent this time of year. Colorful oak, sycamore, maple, and birch leaves are changing from vibrant greens to yellow, red, and gold. Even in the evergreen forest, surprises await. During the spring and summer, the tamarack appears to be an evergreen. Actually, it is a deciduous conifer, thus it's needles change to a beautiful golden color and it sheds it's needles every autumn. The tamarack stands in striking contrast among the other trees of the forest each fall. This beautiful tree also goes by other names, including the common name "Larch". The tamarack tree has food and medicinal qualities. According to Alma Hutchins, a tea can be made from 1 teaspoon of the inner bark of the tamarack that is boiled and steeped for 30 minutes in a cup full of water. Many health benefits are obtained from this simple beverage. Other benefits also are obtained from this majestic tree. For the past thirty years, Brent and his father have shared many enjoyable times together as they have gathered tamarack wood for the family's wood stoves. Taking only dead or downed tamarack, they have helped clear the forest floor of debris and have appreciated the benefit of it for home heating. Although there's much sadness when a large tamarack falls during winter storms, I've noticed that once spring arrives, their chainsaws and their muscles do swift work in gathering the wood for the next winter's use. In their estimation, there is no other wood quite worthy of their wood stoves. It's become somewhat of a tradition for them --- the tamarack expedition to the woods every fall.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Season's End

As October nears the end, local farmers and vendors at the Farmer's Market are bringing the last of the harvest. What beautiful products they have for sale! Fresh flowers, pumpkins, squash, gourds, apples, pears, grapes, peppers, onions, garlic, and more. It's very hard to go to market and not buy 'too much'. The prices are excellent and you couldn't buy better food anywhere else! Fresh, flavorful, and at it's peak, they seem to scream out "Antioxidants", "Vitamins", "Minerals", "Fiber", "Good Health"! YUM!

Isn't this a beautiful display? I love the complementary colors and the beautiful shapes found in the gourds and pumpkins. See how the vines swirl around and make gracious curls? And the grapes. . .so sweet and good. The purple ones are monukkas, a seedless table grape that are highly sought after and quite expensive unless you can field pick them yourself. They've been a treat in my family since I was a small child. Then and now, I enjoy picking them and drying them in the fruit dryer, making delicious raisins! Store-bought are not the same after eating a fresh-dried monukka raisin!

The vendors are the Farmer's Market range from those who sell for farmers on large farms to small family farms. It's always interesting to talk to them, asking questions and learning from them. I always pick up new ideas for preparing foods or growing them.

Isn't that large white pumpkin beautiful?

Loving the beautiful colors, warts and all!

During the heat of the summer, the market is usually filled to overflowing. Although the less crowded conditions aren't as favorable for the vendors, it sure is much nicer to shop without the crowded conditions.

Happy Autumn!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Happy Birthday Time!

"Flowers have an expression of countenance as much as men and animal. Some seem to smile."

Henry Ward Beecher

The first frost in the valley is expected within the next two or three nights. I always mourn the loss of vibrant flowers in my garden. Winter can seem to be so long. I decided to take advantage of the flowers while I had them, and since we had a birthday in the family this week, I used them to decorate cupcakes. The yellow miniature roses were accented with mint leaves and fresh lavender and were the decoration on the gluten free, chocolate cupcakes. The red and white baby roses were accented with fresh lavender and were what distinguished the wheat flour cupcakes from the others. They were served at a birthday dinner for Brent with family and friends.

Chocolate Cake

1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour*
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar (Florida Crystals)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. vinegar lemon juice
1 tsp. pure vanilla
1 cup cold water
1/2 cup dairy-free chocolate chips

In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, sugar, cocoa powder, and baking soda. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in liquid ingredients. Using a hand mixer, blend until batter is smooth and creamy. Work quickly, as the lemon juice activates the baking soda and starts the leavening action. Gently stir in chocolate chips. Measure into cupcake papers in muffin tin. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 20 - 25 minutes.

*May substitute wheat flour if desired. For a gluten-free flour blend, consider Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Flour Blend or a mixture of equal proportions of cornstarch, garbanzo/fava bean flour, and potato starch. Add 1 tsp. xanthan gum for every cup of flour.

Happy Birthday, Brent!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Naturally Sweet Apple Pie

This apple pie recipe has been my favorite for more than thirty years. I think I like it best because the natural sweeteners allow the true flavor of the apples to shine through. Delicious and sweet, this recipe is one you can enjoy without guilt! Containing no refined sugars, the sweetness comes from apples in fresh and juiced forms.

Use your favorite pie crust recipe. My favorite is one that contains whole wheat pastry flour, salt, olive oil, and ice water. . .but it's a recipe I no longer use since our family has had to convert to 'gluten free'. I'm still experimenting with gluten free pie crusts and don't have a recipe that's perfected to the point of sharing yet. The one in this picture is made from non-wheat flours and I experimented with coconut oil as the fat source this time. The flavor was good and the flake-factor excellent, but I have some more recipe adaptation to do before I have something to share.

Naturally Sweet Apple Pie

1 six-ounce can apple juice concentrate
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
5 - 6 large apples, peeled and sliced
1 Tbsp. margarine (Earth Balance)
1 tsp. cinnamon
Salt to taste

Heat apple juice and thicken with cornstarch and remove from heat. Add margarine and cinnamon. Have apples ready and pour the thickened juice mixture over the apples. Stir until coated. Sprinkle with salt. Pour into a pie shell and cover with top crust. Bake at 350 degrees F. until bubbly and golden brown (about 1 hour).

*If you would like some additional natural sweetness, add some sweet herb stevia to the apples when stirring with apple juice. It makes the filling just a touch sweeter without masking the wonderful apple flavor.

Enjoy with a cup of cinnamon tea!

Several asked about the sweet herb, stevia. It is a plant in the sunflower family and is a native to South America and Central America. It goes by several names: sweetleaf, sweet leaf, sugarleaf, and stevia. The leaves of this herb are 300 times sweeter than sugar. It is a natural sugar substitute and has been shown to have many health benefits. When used it cooking, it's important to experiment and determine your favorite 'brands', as each brand has a slightly different flavor. I like to grow and dry my own stevia. It's delicious in tea! Or I dry it and ground it. When using commercially packaged stevia my favorite brands are NuNaturals, NOW, and Sunrider.

It Snowed and Snowed

"It snowed and snowed, the whole world over,
Snow swept the world from end to end.
A candle burned on the table;
A candle burned."

Boris Pasternak
Dr. Zhivago, 1958

To Mountain Top

The road from the bottom of the mountain to the top is only ten miles. But it takes a full hour of meandering through the woods to traverse those ten miles and get to cabin's door even under best conditions. Last week-end, as we neared the half-way mark between mountain base and mountain top, the roads became wetter, muddier, and finally white with snow. It was the perfect type of snow; you know, the type that clings to tree branches and makes them bow gracefully as they stand in stately rows. And everything's so quiet in the woods after a snowfall. Such tranquil beauty and such novelty after the hot, hot days of summer not all that many weeks before.

The snowfall didn't slow Brent down! He added some finishing touches to the trim on the new woodshed and spent time installing and organizing shelves in the storage building. The sun came out and the snow in the tree branches dripped like rain! Sunshine made the white snow sparkle and created shadows on the mountain ridge. Inside a wood fire warmed us up so well that soon the windows were opened wide to cool us down! Even with damper set, Brent couldn't resist building a blazing fire. It only seemed appropriate on a snowy day! The cozy atmosphere seemed to create a need for change, and I spend the afternoon rearranging all the furniture and moving accessories from here to there. With most of the painting and remodeling tasks nearly done, it's time to add another 'layer' of color and style to the room. Window coverings are in progress and new red cushions ready to place on the sofa next time we are there. Slowly but surely things are getting comfy and cozy. When darkness fell the snow began to crunch with coldness and the dripping from the branches stopped. Brent loaded up the back of the pick-up with mountain wood for fires at home, and we headed down the mountain --- the end of a lovely and quiet day.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Tea Rejuvenates

Tea helps our head and heart.
Tea medicates most every part.
Tea rejuvenates the very old.
Tea warms the hands of those who're cold.

J. Jonkers

Although I don't recall where I first found this picture, it is one of my favorites because it tells a story and elicits an emotional response from the viewer. This could be your Grandma, or mine. . .and nothing sounds nicer than sipping a cup of tea with Grandmother!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Chilly Day

It's a chilly day in the neighborhood! Brisk breezes and passing showers make this a good day to stay at home and clean house! The washing machine is swishing and the vacuum cleaner ready to work. By days end, the house will sparkle and gleam. Setting aside Thursday as 'cleaning day' always makes Friday such a lovely day. Baking, cooking, or stitching take on a relaxed mode once the housework is done.

Thanks for all the questions and comments about the tea towel. Yes, it really is a tea towel! I found it at a local home decor shop and thought it was so cute.

Tea Break

Of course, a tea-break is planned into the schedule. I'm eager to try the new lavender chamomile tea that I bought at a tea shop yesterday. Sweetened with the sweet herb, stevia --- I know it will warm me to the core. I need it on this chilly day! After a summer of going sandal-footed, I had to find my socks today so I could keep my feet warm! A cup of sweet tisane will help as well.

Garden Grounds

Are you wondering what coffee grounds are doing on the stoop of someone who doesn't drink coffee? Our house is obviously a 'tea house', but there is a good reason for the coffee grounds. In an effort to use only natural substances in my garden, I have been learning the art of composting and natural methods of bug and weed control. I've learned that a local Starbucks has a pretty green bucket by their front door --- and it frequently contains used coffee grounds that are set out for 'free'. They are labeled 'Grounds for Your Garden'. You might see if your local Starbucks has a similar program. I've been adding coffee grounds to my garden soil and they add needed acidity and nutrients. Coffee is very high in antioxidants. I wonder, will the coffee antioxidants help my vegetable antioxidants grow? I'm sure they will! Some day I'll tell you about the other things I add to my garden soil.

But for now, I must get back to my housework!
Thank you for your sweet comments regarding Brandon's movie project.

I hope you have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Nurturing Creativity

Creating a gracious home means that we strive to nurture those around us. And nurturing of creativity has always been important to me and was actually one of the goals of our family's years of home education. It's been fun to observe the results of this endeavor, and see how the boys have applied creativity to their lives. Recently Brandon and four friends from the university decided to enter a fast film competition. Their goal? To make a movie within a 24 hour period that will be juried by their peers and those in the film industry. Excitement ran high as they planned their project. Rylan was invited to come and join the crew, and of course Brent and I couldn't keep away. With trays of food in car, we stopped by to drop the food off and of course observe for awhile. Young people are our future, and it always brings me great joy to be around youth. Their enthusiasm, vibrancy, and zest for life always energizes me! These students were no exception --- as they exhibited great energy and utmost courtesy during the entire filming process. They were focused, cooperative, and filled with good ideas and I hold them in the highest regard. Best of luck to "Stephenson Film Works" --- the team of five who pulled it all off with much talent and ease. I hope you win!

The movie contrasted joy and sadness.

Turn on your speakers and the music option on the next post for maximum effect.

Maximum Creativity!

Make a PhotoShow Full Size

Monday, October 15, 2007

Going on a Blog Hop

Garden clubs go on garden hops, and quilters go on quilt hops. Maybe it's time that bloggers go on a blog hop. How about it? Let's go!

The blogs we'll visit on Gracious Hospitality today are some of the blogs from people who commented during my recent give-away comment time. Drawing randomly from my container with each comment carefully printed out and trimmed, the first blog on our hop today is Kimmie from Over the Moon with Joy. She's a mama to six, one homemade and five adopted. She and her dear ones are waiting for word on a new adoption and it's been a sad day for her, as the situation for Guatemalan adoption looks bleak right now. I'm sure she could benefit from a hopeful word from you and our prayers.

Over at Dream, Create, Inspire Sandy had an exiting week-end! Not only did she go to a huge craft show in Atlanta, but she attended her husband's 25th high school reunion with him and posted a lovely picture of the two of them. But cutest of all are the pictures of her adorable puppies --- Beck and Posh. Don't they just make your heart melt? They had to stay at a kennel this week-end. I hope they had a posh time (sorry, I couldn't help myself!).

Patty at Morning Ramble is enjoying a lovely rainy day. She shares her thoughts and comments about her need to spend time in the freedom of nature and took some pretty pictures of her walk today. Yesterday she visited an IKEA store and came home inspired with the design lines of their furnishings and their colorful linens.

Next we stop by The Inspired Room to visit Melissa. Her blog is always filled to the brim with creative and unique decorating ideas. Wait until you see her ideas for some totally amazing swings! Yes, the kind that hang from a tree in the front yard. . .but I suspect you've never seen anything like the ones she posted. Her post today was about Blog Action Day (tomorrow) which is a day to voice your concern about the environment in a way that is meaningful to you. She encourages finding new purposes for existing furnishing and accessories. . .recycling what we have, thereby saving precious resources (time, energy, materials, and money). Great idea!

I've been reading Katie's blog for a long time. She's one of the first I linked to my blog. She's at Simple Katie. Katie's models simple hospitality and concern for the environment. She lives in Montana, God's country, and frequently shares abot gathering and preserving food. On the left-side of her page you'll see her list of all the foods she has preserved for the coming year. Incredible!

Judy's Front Porch shows many beautiful nature photos. I especially enjoy them because she lives in the same community my mother grew up in. I like to picture how it must have been when my mother was a child living there. Today she tells about beautiful old books she bought at the Rotary Book Sale. Remember Dick and Jane?

Lucy at Quilting with the Past is making free-form baskets out of beautiful fabrics. She says she's out of her comfort zone, but I know her final project will be lovely! She's a gifted quilter from the Netherlands.

Hedgerow Hollow is a fun place to visit! Lynda has great ideas --- and this week is sharing creative Halloween decor ideas. But what if you scroll down the page a bit farther, you'll see her exquisite Thanksgiving table with her beautiful blue transferware. She's successfully combined blue with autumn colors to great effect.

Now, please skip on over to What Matters Most to visit Lovella. She is sharing delightful news this week! By the end of the year she will not only be a grammie to one, but to two new little ones! She and Terry are converting a guest room into a nursery. Two darling cribs --- set side by side. Bliss!

Are you still with me? I'll draw one more from my stack of comments and we'll stop at ten.

Carrie at Oak Rise Cottage is discussing the creation of personal rituals and shares some that she has established for herself. Scroll down the page and you'll see her beautiful transferware. I share that pattern! It was one that my mother and I started collecting when I was a teen-ager. You'll also see that she has the beautiful lettuce-green dishware that Lovella is sharing soup with on her blog today. We should all get together for one huge party!

I enjoyed visiting everyone's blog who visited mine with a link. And I tried to comment back to everyone who posted a comment. Unfortunately some of you have the 'no reply comment' feature enabled on your blog and I couldn't respond. I'm sorry --- but I loved hearing from everyone! There were about 250 comments during the course of this drawing period.

Please come back again! We'll do another drawing in a week or two --- something this time with a winter theme. A winner has been selected for the little cross-stitch picture and I'll be announcing it soon.

I hope you are enjoying a happy day!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Big Tree Program

It was a glorious day today! Our family went to "University Town" to visit Brandon. In the afternoon, the boys were doing things with their friends, so Brent and I took the opportunity to go on a walking tour of the big trees in the city. I've had a special booklet tucked away in a desk drawer for several years, awaiting such a day. It's a guide to the city's trees in the "Big Tree Program" and the trees listed are the largest known of their species in the state. There are 42 trees that qualify for inclusion in the program in this city. Booklet and map in hand, we set out to find as many of these trees as we could.

Bandstand Amongst Sycamores

Our tour started at the bandstand in the city park. This park was once a pasture for cows and was considered wasteland because of the many springs that watered the soil. But city citizens saw this as an ideal place for establishing a park and in 1901 the city council set aside the tract for such a place. The bandstand was built in 1909 and London Planetrees (sycamores) were planted all around it. Although I should have been most impressed with the age of the still-beautiful bandstand, instead I reveled in telling Brent stories of my childhood experiences at this very park. Once, in the early 1960's, I rode in a bicycle parade with all my elementary school classmates to this bandstand. I must have been in 2nd grade at the time and it was a great adventure. I few years later, our elementary school band gave a concert from this bandstand. How important we all felt. There were other stories as well. Memories of coming here each autumn with my parents to look for acorns and chestnuts, the wedding of a high school friend, of feeding the ducks in the pond, and the last time I was here with my mother who was wheelchair bound and had to be pushed through the pathways. And the trees. . .always the trees. . .surround each individual, family, and group of friends who share moments and memories in this glorious park!

Heritage of Trees

Trees for this park arrived in a variety of unique ways. Over winding and muddy roads of the mountains that once provided guidance for early pioneers on the Oregon trail, to trees and shrubs brought eastward from Seattle. Trees even arrived by rail car, sent from the U.S. Botanical Gardens at the nation's capital. Most of the trees in this community were planted at the turn of the century and have been protected and valued ever since. An operating street tree ordinance is enforced, but of course that doesn't apply to those trees that are on private property. But private citizens and city officials alike believe that there's no better way to honor those who came before than to protect the trees established and to plant more for those who follow.

Parade of Trees

Trees on the Tour

Sweetgum, American Basswood, White Basswood, Fernleaf Beech, Tree of Heaven, Scarlet Oak, Silver Maple, Sweetgum, Hybrid Black Poplar, Black Walnut, European Ash, American Sycamore, Norway Maple, Horsechestnut, Yellow Sweet Buckeye, Hybrid Plane, Burr Oak, American Elm, Hackberry, Black Locust, Catalpa, Northern White Cedar, Austrian Black Pine, Pecan, White Basswood, Ginkgo, Sugar Maple, Paw Paw, Smooth-leaved Elm, American Sycamore, Red Alder, Box Elder

**The Catalpa (last row on left) is on record as the record tree of this species in the nation.

To learn more about the Big Tree Program go to American Forests website.

Friday, October 12, 2007


This evening I discovered some unique verses in scripture that talked about lamps. I thought they were interesting and quite unique. Have you ever thought of using olive oil in your old-fashioned lamp? Evidently the children of Israel did. It's interesting how scripture details even the small things of life --- like a lamp. Read on. . .

And spice, and oil for the light, and for the anointing oil, and for the sweet incense.
Exodus 35:28

The pure candlestick, with the lamps thereof, the lamps to be set in order, and all the vessels thereof, and the oil for light. . .
Exodus 39:37

And thou shalt bring in the table, and set in order the things that are to be set in order upon it; and thou shalt bring in the candlestick, and light the lamps thereof.
Exodus 40:4

Command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamps to burn continually.
Leviticus 24:2

It's Finally Done!

Brent rearranged his schedule yesterday so that work could go on without him. Then we took a rare 'mid-week' trip to the cabin so he could put finishing touches on the woodshed that he's been building all summer. Since he's only worked on building only one day a week, it seems to be a project that's lasted for a very long time! Except for a few pieces of trim, he's now completed the building and added a door knob with a lock! He'll paint the wood supports on the porch to match the cabin in the spring --- when it's a little warmer than it is now. Needless to say, he's pretty happy to be done!


It was a beautiful day, although somewhat chilly at 50 degrees. I relaxed by crafting. A favorite project of mine is to make ornaments out of beeswax. The process is as important as the product --- the fragrance, texture, and color of natural beeswax is quite soothing to work with. I purchased the beeswax from a local bee farmer. It's a byproduct of honey production and he makes wax cakes out of it that he sells for a very reasonable price (about $6.00 per block).

Clay Molds

The chilly weather was an asset for ornament making, as they cooled quickly. I've collected molds for quite some time now. Most of them are either "brown bag" or "Pampered Chef" cookie molds. Although I've enjoyed cookie making with them, I also use them for molded paper ornaments and for beeswax ornaments. Did you notice how they vary in color? That's not only because of 'brand' differences, but some have been used more than others and have become 'seasoned'.

Wax Melting

After preparing the molds by wiping them with a very thin coating of vegetable oil, melt the beeswax in a double boiler (or using the two kettle method I did). The wax is very fragrant when warmed. I love it!

Hardening Beeswax

Use a ladle to pour the melted beeswax into the molds. After they start to harden, add a short piece of a straw to help you form a hole to thread a ribbon through.

Varying Colors

This picture shows the variations in color at different stages of hardening. Because I only melt one block of beeswax at a time, the ornaments are at different stages of formation. One block of beeswax makes about six molded designs.

Nearly Done

Notice how they pull away from the molds after cooling? Test for hardness by giving them a gentle tug. If they stick --- leave them alone until they simply lift off. Don't worry if you ruin one; simply remelt and start over.

Simple Designs

Here's what they look like once removed from the molds. The natural wax has a lovely sheen. These are untrimmed. The little bits of straws were cut off, flush, with a pair of scissors. The remainder that sticks to the wax will be removed with tweezers or a sharp knife during the cleaning process.

Sometimes the edges need trimmed to remove bits of wax that dried along the edges. This is simple; a sharp knife removes the soft wax and gives a nice, clean edge.

Beeswax Ornament

Once the ornament is hardened adequately, check them for flaws and remove any tiny bits of wax that you don't like. The surface should be shiny and beautiful, but if it's somewhat dull, shine it with a clean pantyhose (which works like sandpaper). Sometimes I add a little touch of vegetable oil as well, although generally this step isn't necessary.

Clean out the hole at the top and add a ribbon hanger.

I prefer the 'plain and simple' ornament, allowing the beeswax and the design to give their beauty. But, it's possible to make other small changes as well. Sometimes I add dried flowers like lavender to the melted wax. At other times I've rubbed antiquing over the ornament and have tried painting the raised parts to accentuate the design.

The most important part of all is to HAVE FUN and enjoy the process!

Happy Crafting!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

What is Your Fragrance?

A beautiful and thoughtful reminder from the pen of Emilie Barnes. . .

"What is your fragrance? Are you the one who others don't want to be around? Or are others wanting to smell the freshness of your sweet spirit because you are a blossom so strong with the fragrance of the spirit of Christ?"

May we all take the time to develop that fragrance. . .

Tortilla Soup

Do you need a one-dish meal that's quick and easy? Something you can put together in a few minutes and it tastes like it's simmered on the stove for hours? This is it! It's so easy and simply delicious! If you are really in a time crunch, this is a great crock pot recipe.

Tortilla Soup

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. olive oil

Saute' onion and garlic in oil until soft.


1 can tomatoes, diced
1 can olives, sliced
1 can green chilies, chopped
1 can pinto beans
1 can corn
1 cup salsa
4 cups chicken-style broth
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
3 Tbsp. taco seasoning
salt to taste
fresh cilantro and grape tomatoes to garnish
vegan sour cream to garnish
corn tortillas, slice thinly and saute'ed

Blend all ingredients in kettle except those used for garnish. Adjust seasonings as desired. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish as desired. Serve with crunched up tortilla chips (can be stirred into the soup). Delish!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Autumn's Crowning Glory

"In the garden,
Autumn is, indeed,
the crowning glory
of the year, bringing
us the fruition of
months of thought
and care and toil."

Rose Kingsley

Autumn Decor on Pretty Porch

I've enjoyed getting to know Paula at Elm Street Antiques. Today as I drove by her shop on my way home from an appointment, I noticed that she had changed the decor on the shop's front porch. It was lovely and I had to stop to tell her how much I enjoyed it. She is very creative and her displays (inside and out) draw people to her shop. Over the week-end she created this beautiful wreath out of rose hips from her yard. Isn't it beautiful? When I think of rose hips, I think of 'tea' and 'terrific source of vitamin C' --- but obviously Paula had another vision. Isn't it pretty?

In addition to the wreaths made from rose hips and branches, Paula also made a rose hip swag that transverses the entire leading edge of her porch roof. I didn't get a picture, but they look similar to the icicle holiday lights, except they are shiny red and oh, so natural.

Garlands, pumpkins, cat-tails, and a milk can complete the decor. Together they say "Happy Autumn" and "Please come in!"

Great job, Paula! I enjoyed my visit today!

Bay and Marjoram Body Soak

Bay leaves and marjoram are said to have qualities that stimulate the circulation, thereby easing sore muscles and stiff joints. Additionally, the magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts) has qualities that are beneficial when bathing. According to Wikipedia, the increase in ionic strength found in the salts prevents pruning which is caused by prolonged immersion of extremities in pure water. It can also be absorbed into the skin, reducing inflammation. Together, these ingredients make a wonderful addition to bathwater for a soak in the tub! All of that, and I haven't yet mentioned the very relaxing fragrance of the marjoram and bay that's released by crushing during the making of this lovely bathing treatment.

Bay and Marjoram Body Soak

1/8 cup bay leaves
1/8 cup dry marjoram leaves
1/2 cup baking soda
1 cup Epsom salts

Use a food processor or a coffee grinder to crush the herbs. Place in a bowl and add baking soda. Then, in batches, crush the Epsom salts until fine and powdery. Add the salts to the herbal mixture and stir until well blended. Store in a zip-lock or pretty jar. When ready to use, pour about 1/2 cup of the mixture into hot bath water and enjoy! There will be some residue in bathtub after bathing, but it rinses down the drain easily. Double or triple recipe if desired.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

On Domesticity

On domesticity: "I'm good with kids and decorating, of course, but if the cooking were up to me, we'd all starve in a really cute room."

Mary Engelbreit

Thank you for all your comments to this post. Mary Engelbreit is a favorite of mine as well! And yes, the aprons are mine. I have more --- someday I'll share them with you as well.